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Coven loyalists were a credit to the league

Grassroots | Published:

The true meaning of grassroots football was surely never more highlighted by one former Beacon Sunday League outfit.

Long-serving Beacon League side Coven Colts line up for a pre-match photograph during the 1998-99 season - Pictures: Simon Cater

Long-serving Coven Colts were formed in the 80s as an under-12 side, before moving into the open age Beacon afternoon set up in the mid-90s and spending no fewer than 16 loyal seasons chasing glory.

Although league and cup honours eluded this village-based side, they did go extremely close, reaching two cup finals, and it was not for the lack of effort and great enthusiasm provided by founder members John Rogers and his late wife Margarette, whose son Steven was a team regular for many years.

It was during their early league days (they competed in the Telford and Walsall Minor Junior leagues) that John came across an ideal field in his village which, through sheer hard work and graft, he turned into the club’s new home.

“That was in School Lane (Coven). It was a field next to the local cricket club but we first had to clear the entire ground surface of its many stones,” said John, whose wife gave him great support and regularly washed the club kit, that the couple themselves had also purchased. There was little sponsorship in those days!

John, now aged 82, also took on the task of providing goalposts for the new pitch and built them himself in his own back garden.

He also owned two sit-on mowers in those days and he and Margarette would regularly keep the playing surface in good trim, the original pitch size having been marked out by John using string.

On the park, Coven Colts left the junior scene and became members of the Beacon League in 1996, opening with a seventh-placed finish in division one (second tier). Improvement followed in each of the next three seasons, sixth (1998), fifth (1999) before the Colts narrowly missed out on medals in 2000 when finishing third, just three points down on runners-up St Chads Old Boys.

However, they did take one major scalp in that latter campaign when inflicting the only league defeat on champions Perton Village with goals from Richard Smith, Steve Booth and Will Goulding.

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It was in that same season that Booth (a former Manchester United junior), more renowned for his goalkeeping skills with non-league Wolverhampton Casuals, turned target man and cracked 37 goals to top the division one scoring charts.

“He was a strong lad and we just had to feed him with the ball and he would score,” said John, who has also served on the Beacon League committee for the past 15 years.

At the start of the millennium, Coven were promoted to the Premier section and they gave a great account of themselves finishing sixth out of 12 teams with Booth again among the goals, notching 28 to take second spot in the Premier individual goal table.

It was in that same campaign that Coven saw off Pendeford 2000, Dynamo Diamonds and a strong Wombourne North side to reach the semi-finals of the Lester Cup (sponsored by 107.7 Wolf FM) before losing 2-0 to eventual winners Perton Village.

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The following term was a more difficult one for Coven as they chalked up just four wins in 22 league games, leaving them second bottom in the final table, but they remained in the top flight for the start of the 2002/03 season.

But there was no improvement and they finished rock bottom next time round after failing to win a single league game and were relegated to division one where their Beacon life had started.

And Coven’s struggles continued the following season as they occupied last place at the close and suffered a second successive demotion, before the 2004/05 term brought back some stability to this much admired club.

On the league front, they finished mid-table in division two, while marching through to their first Beacon cup final, only to miss out narrowly 2-1 to Smethwick Heating, at Willenhall Town’s ground.

Coven remained in the third tier for the remainder of their league membership and were chiefly a mid-table outfit. However, they did enjoy two excellent cup runs, both in the Clinton Cup, reaching the last four in 2008 and a second such divisional final two years later.

In the former, they took Jolly Sailor to extra-time before going down 4-2. A Shaun Talbot brace was not enough on this occasion for the Colts.

Two years on and they made their second final appearance but lost out again, 1-0 to second division runners-up Rising Sun.

It just wasn’t to be in terms of silverware for such a well respected club, but many would agree that the dedication shown by John and Margarette deserved a great deal more!

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